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What If Your Worst Nightmares Became a Horrifying Reality?

How would you handle coming face-to-face with monsters, ghouls and other creatures that go bump in the night?

By What IfPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
Spider art by Salvatore Scala

As kids, we get a thrill out of watching scary movies or telling spooky stories, partly because we know the monsters aren’t real and that the grown-ups we love will protect us from the bad things in the world.

But what if the creepy crawlies that make us shriek were real? How would YOU handle coming face-to-face with monsters, ghouls and other creatures that go bump in the night? What would that look like? Let’s band together and let our imaginations run wild!

Super Scary Spiders Staring You in the Face

Instead of just calling for someone brave to kill the eight-legged menace, if spiders were human-sized, it would take a heck of a lot more than a shoe to eliminate the threat. This would be even worse for the 3.5-6% of the population that suffers from arachnophobia, but it’s pretty rotten for the rest of us too. There are 40,000 different kinds of spiders and even if only a handful of them are venomous, they’re all looking for a snack eventually.

But that’s not the only danger -- those eight legs will make spiders much faster than humans, especially at our size, and will give them an advantage in chasing us toward their inevitably, extra sticky webs. If you were to get ensnared in a tangled web, you’re also risking death from starvation, dehydration or exposure to the elements, depending on the time of year and how long you might be waiting there to become a spider’s supper. A spider’s silk can be five times stronger than steel and between two and 10 times stronger than Kevlar — if you get trapped, you’re not getting out. Unless you got naked. If it’s a choice between streaking across the neighborhood or out of the woods and being a snack for an eight-legged freak… well, a little embarrassment might be worth your life.

Our Buddy Bigfoot Comes to Visit

Moving to something slightly more mythical, there are those among us who really truly want to believe that Bigfoot exists. Use whatever name you prefer -— Yeti, Sasquatch, Yeren, Yowie, etc. — the half human, half hairy animal has captured the imagination of people around the world. One theory is that our friend Harry is a relative of the long-extinct Gigantopithecus, a distant cousin of the orangutan that lived in Southeast Asia; in its time, Gigantopithecus was more than 3 meters (10 feet) tall and weighed around 270 kg (almost 600 lbs). That would shake out to about the size of a Bigfoot people claim to see, in blurry, distant photos and mostly at night deep in the woods. It’s possible this ancient creature migrated to North America via the ice bridge that used to span between what is now Russia and Alaska.

It’s also possible, given our shared lineage, that Bigfoot is a kind of great-great-great-great-great-great-great (you get the idea) cousin of us from around 11 million years ago. So while there’s no definitive proof that Bigfoot is real, those who want to believe can take some comfort in knowing we’re finding new species all the time, even in the age of GPS and satellite cameras covering seemingly every inch of the planet. There were 71 new species discovered in 2019 alone! Bottom line: If you come across a Bigfoot, try not to get in its way and hold your camera steady -- they’re shy and startle easy.

It's Not Just Your Brains Zombies Want To Eat...

Guillem. H. Pongiluppi

Much like our friend Bigfoot, there’s a newfound wealth of interest in zombies, from books and TV shows to movies and survival guides. We all have those friends who talk, jokingly (we think??) about who they’d want on their team when the zombie apocalypse happens. But what would that look like and how would anyone survive? First, be prepared with a bag stocked with basic essentials, like water, a first aid kit, medicine and maybe some mace or pepper spray. Next, grab a weapon, like a bat or golf clubs or a good ol’ fashioned gun. Then, get the heck out of any city and run for the woods or anywhere you can get to quickly where there’s space and maybe a little elevation.

Much like pandemics, you want to have as much space as possible between you and any zombies along with the ability to see them coming. If possible, go near water — we all know that zombies can’t swim and/or are terrified of water. It will also be easier to travel by water as there’s less traffic (at least at first). Wherever you go, move quickly: the best guess is that 99% of the world’s population would be at risk of becoming a zombie in about as many days, so time is of the essence. That’s also about the amount of time humanity would have left to live -— within 100 days, there might only be about 300 people left alive and uninfected. Survivors might want to point their navigation systems to, of all places, North Korea, with 47 armed and trained military personnel for every 1,000 people. By comparison, for all its military funding and chest-beating, the United States has only four military personnel per 1,000 people.

Do We Really Welcome Our New Alien Overlords?

And speaking of being overrun by creatures we’re pretty sure would have some serious bloodlust and a burning urge to destroy all humanity, aliens! Let’s assume they’re not the peaceful kind because, at this point in human history, why would they be. If they’re here, they have technology way more advanced than anything Elon Musk is dreaming of, so all our weapons and gadgets are basically infant toys to them. Why are they here? Maybe they’ll eat us, like humanity historically has done to animals. After all, we would no longer be the top of the food chain. That would make people a commodity in the same way we’ve treated chicken, cows, pigs, fish and other animals we’ve treated as food for centuries. That’s assuming the aliens are protein-consuming creatures that can metabolize our muscles.

Or maybe they want to use our organs for….something. Here among humans, organs are not just a life-giving and -saving commodity, they are expensive: a heart transplant can cost $1.4 million; kidneys are $200,000 apiece and livers can cost someone $157,000. Bone marrow is where you can make real money, at $23,000 per gram (0.03 oz). Or the aliens might find us adorable and fascinating and put us in zoos, like the 8 million animals currently in zoos around the world, or keep us as pets, as we’ve done with 70 million dogs and 74 million cats in the U.S. alone, or the 191 million birds singing in cages and homes in Brazil. However it shakes out, our life as we know it is pretty much over.

Stay Inside When It Rains Or You’ll Short Your Circuits

Maybe the aliens aren’t the only ones looking to find new uses for the human body. We’ve dreamed of being immortal for ages, but maybe there’s something else: being half human, half machine. We aren’t just talking about Robocop here, but more like the Six Million Dollar Man or Bionic Woman. Or full-on cyborg. On the surface, having better eyesight thanks to cybernetic eyes sounds pretty cool. Wouldn’t it be awesome to capture those incredibly vivid colors we see in nature that always seem a little less spectacular in photos simply by using our eyes to capture the moment? But why not go further and have your bones enriched by carbon fiber! No more worrying about falling and breaking a hip when you get old (if you get old at all). Any organ or limb starts to fail, just replace it with the latest model! All the bells and whistles can be yours.

There are some potentially serious downsides to all of this. If you swapped your current hearing for, say, a bat’s ears, but then they stopped working, your brain would have adapted and then your regular ears wouldn’t cut it anymore. Or, worse, any of those mechanical enhancements that are connected to the internet could be hacked. You could lose control of your arms, legs, eyes or mouth, among other vital bodily functions. And you wouldn’t even be able to necessarily negotiate your way out of the situation — you might not even be aware of it if you have cybertronic implants in your brain! Then you’re just a robotic slave to whoever’s taken control of your body. Is that how you want to live?

None of these things are likely to happen, of course...at least not right away, probably. We can leave our nightmares to the land of dreams. But maybe keep an old-fashioned night light on, just in case.


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